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Columbia Missourian

'Chloe's Law' to require heart screenings for Missouri babies

By Isabel Casal-Nazario
July 18, 2013 | 5:25 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — When mother, Kelly Manz realized heart defects in newborns are more common than people think she decided to do something about it.

Her 5-year-old daughter, Chloe, was diagnosed with a heart defect after a screening as a newborn.

Chloe, who lives a healthy and active life with Manz in Lee's Summit, has become a rallying cry to raise awareness and require heart defect screenings at hospitals.

Last week, Manz's efforts were realized when Missouri joined several other states that require a pulse oximetry screening for infants within 24 hours of birth. 

As of Jan. 1, it will be mandated for hospitals to use the screening for critical congenital heart disease on every baby born in Missouri. Gov. Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill no. 230, also known as "Chloe's law" last week.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Congenital heart defects are the leading cause of infant mortality associated with birth defects."

The screening uses a sensor that is put on the baby's foot to measure blood oxygen levels through the skin. Low blood oxygen levels can be a sign of heart defects. If the test is positive and low blood oxygen levels are observed, hospitals are required by the law to provide treatment.

"The test is painless and takes only a few minutes," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

University Hospital staff have already been conducting the screenings as routine procedure for newborns. Congenital heart defects are usually found at the before a baby is born using ultrasound, Colin Planalp, University Hospital spokesman said.

"By measuring the amount of oxygen in a patient’s blood, it is possible that pulse oximetry could help detect congenital heart disease that may not have been diagnosed earlier," he said.

Because the process is noninvasive and the equipment was already there, University Hosptial began providing the screening before the law was approved, Planalp said. Boone Hospital Center also performs this test on all newborns, said Jacob Luecke, Boone Hospital Center spokesman.

According to the American Heart Association, heart defects in children often arise from abnormal formation of the heart or blood vessels. 

Detecting heart defects in children early can prevent further problems as they grow older, according to the American Heart Association. 

"Chloe's law" exempts babies whose parents object to testing because of religion. Any refusal shall be documented in writing by the parents and handed to the hospital or physician.

Hospital staff will also be required to provide parents or guardians with written information on the screening before the procedure, according to the law.

Supervising editor is John Schneller.